Global Brain Awareness Week: March 14-20th, 2011!

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Let's pause for a moment. Global-Brain-Awareness-Week. A week, dedicated to the brain. Globally. GLOBALLY.

The brain has been featured in the news lately. Why? Concussions. Head injuries. Sidney Crosby. HOCKEY. But we'll come back to that later. Gluckstein Personal Injury Lawyers LLP's next E-news will feature a special article focusing on concussions, hockey and the traumatic effects of mild brain injuries, so faithful readers, you can look forward to that shortly!

Back to Brain Awareness Week. Brain Awareness Week is meant to increase public awareness about the progress and benefits of brain research. It is an opportunity for organizations worldwide to unite in a week-long celebration of the brain. Did you know that the brain reacts to cellphones? According to an article published in the Wall Street Journal, available here, radiation from cell phones has a direct impact on particular brain cells.

The Study was published in February 2011 in the Journal of the American Medical Association and shows that the human brain is sensitive to electromagnetic radiation coming out of cellphones. 

  • The findings do not determine whether or not the radiation is harmful to cells; only that cells are reacting.
  • The cellphone use actually appears to increase brain activity in regions close to where the phone antenna is head against the head.
  • If there aren't negative long-term effects, cellphones could be used as a non-invasive way to stimulate parts of the brain in a therapeutic manner; i.e. the treatment of depression. 

Did you know that Brain Injury Awareness is commemorated around the World?

  • March 20, 2011 is World Head Injury Day

  • March 16, 2011 is US Congressional Brain Injury Awareness Day

  • March 14-20th is New Zealand's Brain Injury Awareness Week

  • May 9-15, 2011 is the United Kingdom's Action for Brain Injury Week

  • June is Canada's Brain Injury Awareness month

  • August 15-21, 2011 is Brain Injury Awareness Week in Australia

Brain injuries are life changing. Brain injuries cause irreparable damage. According to

  • Injury is the leading killer of Canadian children and youth; 50% of all deaths from injury are from brain injuries;
  • 30% of all traumatic brain injuries are sustained by children and youth; many while participated in recreational activities and sports;
  • Bike helmets can prevent up to 88% of brain injuries when used properly;
  • Skiers and snowboarders reduce their risk of head injuries by 60% by wearing a helmet.

Any type of brain injury should be taken seriously. Definitions:

  • Acquired Brain Injury: Damage to the brain, which occurs after birth, as a result of a traumatic or non-traumatic event and can result in temporary, prolonged, or permanent impairments in cognitive, emotional, behavioural, or physical functioning.
  • Traumatic Brain Injury: Damage to the brain, which occurs after birth, as a result of an external force such as a fall, car accident, assault, or sports injury.
  • Non Traumatic Brain Injury: Damage to the brain as a result of metabolic disruption (hypoglycemia), Hypoxia and anoxia (oxygen loss due to near drowning, strangulation, cardiac arrest, stroke), space occupying lesion (tumour, cyst, abcess, haematoma), or illness (meningitis, encephalitis). Source: Brain Injury Association of Peel and Halton ( For an illustration of types of Brain Injuries click here.

Brain injuries have often been referred to as a silent epidemic. With the heyday of media surrounding hockey players and concussions lately, brain injuries and head injuries have become a focal point of office and household discussions. According to The Brain Injury Association of Peel and Halton:

  • Acquired Brain Injury (ABI) is the number one killer and cause of disability in Canadians under the age of 44;
  • Each year over 50,000 Canadians sustain brain injuries: 11,000 of these will die, over 6,000 will be permanently disabled;
  • Head injuries account for 80% of child cycling deaths;
  • Close to 500,000 Ontarians currently live with an acquired brain injury and 18,000 new cases are added every year;
  • Approximately 53% of homeless people in Toronto have histories of brain injury;
  • It is estimated that the direct and indirect costs associated with ABI are $3 billion annually in Canada and $1 billion in Ontario.

These statistics establish why there is a growing concern and why there is a need to prevent head injuries and protect the brain. It is important to note that a concussion can happen even if you haven't been knocked unconscious. A concussion can be caused by direct or indirect blows or a hit to the head, violent shaking of the head, or force from a whiplash type injury. Most concussions are due to a collision with another object/person while the object/person is moving at a high rate of speed. The brain suddenly shifts of shakes inside of the skull. Symptoms of a concussion:

  • Headaches
  • Neck Pan
  • Vomiting, Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Blurred Vision
  • Sensitivity to Light/Noise
  • Unsteadiness
  • Confusion/Trouble Concentrating
  • Possible Loss of Consciousness

In early January 2011, hockey's biggest star, Sidney Crosby suffered a concussion after 2 hard blows to the head. Let us not forget what happened to Marc Savard. Then there was Max Pacioretty of the Montreal Canadians who suffered a concussion and fractured vertebrae, a devastating injury that has angered fans, Air Canada, Via Rail, and countless others. These incidents and others have prompted a real call to action on the part of the NHL and commissioner Gary Bettman. Yesterday, the NHL General Managers met to discuss and decide on a new concussion protocol. The Globe and Mail, which has been featuring a series of articles dedicated to the subject of concussions, hockey and the like, posted an article about the results of the meeting:

  • Step 1: The player who is hit will be removed from the rink to a quiet place and be examined by a physician, as recommended by Dr. Charles Tator, the well-known Toronto neurosurgeon; previously, the player was evaluated by a trainer;
  • Step 2: Spreading of responsibility. For repeat offenders, with respect to illegal hits to the heads, penalties will be handed out to the player, the team and maybe even the head coach.
  • Step 3: The NHL will hire a safety engineer to adjust the playing area, namely the hard boards and glass. All arenas will have to conform to safety standards. This is to address the concern of the safety of the players after what happened to Max Pacioretty.
  • Step 4: Another item discussed was that league VP Brendan Shanahan is set to work with the NHLPA on the issue of improved equipment.
  • Step 5: As well, a new league committee will form composed of former players like Shanahan, Rob Blake, Tampa Bay's GM Steve Yzerman and Dallas Stars GM Joe Nieuwendyk. This new committee will study safety issues and concussions.

Commissioner Gary Bettman argued that the majority of concussions this hockey season have stemmed from accidental events and not from hits aimed at the head. There have been 70 reported concussions. This number has doubled from last season. Concussions from illegal hits account for 17% of the 70 reported. Of course, there is still some debate over the definition of legal, and illegal hits and we'll leave it at that. The Brain Injury Association of Canada encourages young athletes to report their concussion symptoms and to be aware of the symptoms:

  • Playing or practicing with concussion symptoms delays your recovery and is dangerous because while your brain is healing, you are more likely to have another concussion;
  • Repeat concussions can increase the time it takes for you to recover and increases your changes of having long term problems;
  • If you think you have a concussion you should not return to play on the day of the injury until a health care professional your return.

The concussion issue was front and centre at the NHL general managers' meeting. A five step plan is hopefully going to be put into action soon to reduce head injuries and concussions and improve safety in hockey. It took a lot of bad press and criticism to get 5 Step Plan drawn up and the issue of concussions in the news consistently for the past two and a half months. But, we used our brains to do it.


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